Friday, February 24, 2006

Thirteenth Class

Wednesday Night: Anatomy, Pt. 2

Follow up on question about broken ribs that don't heal back together. Sometimes they don't. In some instances, the body will build up around the breaks a fiberous tissue impregnated with calcium, stiffening the supporting tissues in the area to make up for the loss of bone support. The body will also lay down adhesions in response to muscle strain. Those, too, can have the effect of stiffening the tissues to make up for some of the loss of bone support.

Nervous System
-- controls the body
-- composed of sensory and motor nerves

Control -- how?
The body has to coordinate hundreds of different kinds of muscle movements even for the simplest of gestures. Most of those movements are habituated to occur together. Somtimes they occur smoothly and gracefully, sometimes not.

Nerve cells are shot through all muscles. The nerve cell fires, the muscle cell contracts. Nerves connect to muscle cells in two important places -- at the belly of the muscle cell fiber, where it measures and controls the length and speed of contraction, and at the musculotendonous junction where they monitor the force of a contraction, relaxing the entire muscle cell in order to prevent muscle tears and other harm from too great a strain.

Yoga uses slow, smooth movements in order to enhance proprioception, diminish fast, harsh strains on muscles that would trigger auto-releases or spasms.

Proprioception: how you know where you are. Nerve cells monitor the position of your arms and deliver that information to your mind, even if your eyes are closed.

Ex: Standing poses, eyes closed. Note and feel the sensory input from your body.

Q: Is there a difference between conscious mind's instructions to a body part and the subconscious instructions from the autonomic nervous system?

A: One approach to yoga is an effort to bring all functions to conscious awareness. [I think my notes don't accurately reflect the Q and A here.]

The body can create holding patterns without our knowledge. Unless we stop to notice, we could be working within artificially constrained postures. One aspect of physical yoga postures is to get the students to experience the full range of a joint or muscle. As soon as they do that, they begin to "reset" their idea of what is possible and what a "neutral" position is for that joint or muscle. Consider how many people in the world spend their lives hunched over a computer or a desk or a work table. For them, lifting their shoulders to their ears, rolling their shoulders back, and sliding the shoulder blades down the spine and toward one another presents a range of motion that many of them never experience. By doing that motion, though, their minds discover greater range, and they begin to 'reset' their expectations of what is normal.

Partial paralysis: Dave talked about patients he has worked with who found they could develop new nerve pathways to accomplish actions that they were initially unable to do following injury or stroke. Sometimes the process of visualization can, itself, help reformulate those nerve pathways.

Key body concepts:

All is connected
All is moving

Do range of motion resets early in a class so the student can use that perception of additional potential throughout the rest of the class. Encourage them to work their stretches not from the familiar range of motion, but from their complete range of motion, whatever that may be for the individual. One reason power yoga uses half-lifts before and after jumps is to reset the mid-point of a forward bend.

Backbends: internal rotation of thighs is key. Relax glutes. Ideally, you should be able to perform the hot yoga locust poses without stiffening glutes, relying, instead, on hamstrings to lift the legs off the floor. By rotating your thighs inward, you'll take pressure off of the sacrum, protecting the lower spinal joints and making the pose much more comfortable and extendable for the student than if they roll their knees and thighs outward. If you have trouble conveying this idea, simply put a yoga block between the student's knees, and tell the student to keep rotating the thighs in tightly enough to hold the block in place. Doing that will automatically rotate thighs inward.

Overstretching: when the student feels the stretch more in the joints and at the tendon attachment locations than in the belly of the muscle, they're overstretching, and should back off.

Active breathing can engage the entire torso and abdomen. We can also ask students to extend their perception, while breathing, to more remote areas. Which area to direct a student to breathe into depends on what you want to accomplish. Some need to practice thoracic breathing to stretch the inter-costal muscles and fascia. Some need to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing to massage abdominal organs. Some need to practice breathing into their backs to create space between vertebrae. There's no "one" way to breathe.

Almost all postures start from the core muscles -- psoas, abodominals, and spinals.

(Please refer to notebook outlines for the remainder of class -- my note-taking declined with my energy levels on Wednesday night.)